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Global Update on Shark Fin Legislation

Over the past few months, WildAid has been hard at work promoting, advocating, and lobbying for California’s AB 376, a proposed bill that would outlaw the possession, sale, trade, and distribution of shark fins within the state’s borders. In May, the bill passed the California Assembly by a vote of 60 to 8, and just recently passed the California Senate’s Natural Resources Committee with a vote of 5 to 0, with two abstentions. In the coming months, the bill will head to the Senate Appropriations Committee before heading to the Senate Floor and, if passed, on to the Governor’s desk.

WildAid teamed up with the Humane Society of the United States, NRDC, and actor Leonardo DiCaprio to send a letter to California Senators, encouraging them to support the passing of AB 376. The list of celebrity ambassadors who also endorsed the letter included athlete Yao Ming, actors Edward Norton, Scarlett Johansson, and Megan Fox, and pop star Ke$ha.

If passed, California would become the most prominent US state to show its support for shark conservation by banning the sale of shark fins, after similar legislation passed in Hawaii, Washington, and Oregon. WildAid played a vital role in ushering Oregon’s bill from the state legislature to the Governor’s desk, where it will be publicly signed on August 4th. Washington state’s SB 5688 sponsored by Senator Kevin Ranker, which passed by a unanimous vote in the Washington Senate, went on to pass the House this past April by a vote of 95 to 1 in favor of banning the sale, trade, or distribution of shark fins or derivative products within Washington’s borders.

Internationally, countries are joining the global campaign as well. Just this month, the National Congress of Chile passed legislation that requires that every shark caught by fishermen be landed with their fins naturally attached. In the Bahamas, new legislation was recently announced which outright prohibits shark fishing in its territorial waters and also prohibits the sale, import, and export of shark products. Action is continuing to spread on a global scale, as Fiji’s Department of Fisheries and Forests just announced a review of their current fisheries management law in order to incorporate a ban of all products derived from any shark captured in Fiji waters.

The city of Brandfort, Ontario became the first Canadian city to enact a ban, with other cities poised to follow including Oakville, where they've unanimously agreed to draft a bylaw in the fall. Conversations are also underway in other Canadian cities including Toronto and Mississauga.

Next year, Taiwan will become the first Asian country to ban shark finning at sea – an announcement made earlier this month. Taiwan, where an estimated 4 million sharks are killed annually, will require fishermen to keep shark catches fully in tact until they arrive in port, a measure meant to reduce finning at sea.

For more than a decade, WildAid has been working internationally to reduce the demand for shark fin, and will continue to do so. Though there have been many recent successes, many more are required in order to sufficiently protect the world’s sharks.